Stacks And Blinds
When playing advanced poker, especially in a tournament, you will quite often see players adjusting their own play and how they use their stack according to the stacks that their opponents posses. Whilst there is some merit in taking regard of your opponents stacks you shouldn’t let their stacks dictate to you how you play your poker game. Conversely, having short or large stacks yourself may well have a profound effect on how you play if you are the next blind or big blind.
Look for the short stack
It’s happened to all of us at some time in our poker playing – we end up with a short stack and are pretty well resigned to giving it up. In a tournament it doesn’t even need to be the player with the shortest stack that will be feeling this, but anyone with a below average stack of chips will be thinking just how long they can hold out for if that killer hand doesn’t come their way. Early on in a tournament the one play you don’t want to make against players with short stacks is the early aggressive semi-bluff. Whilst at other times it can work a treat if players want to conserve their chips – in a tournament they’ll simply call you meaning that the pot is only a relatively small one. This advice not only holds well against small stack players but also players with large stacks. Of course in the heat of a game, even for a small pot, it is all too tempting to try and get a short stack player to commit all their chips ‘all-in‘ and clean them out; or to draw your other opponents into checking down a multi-way pot to clean out the short stack. These two ploys are fine toward the end of a tournament if your own stack isn’t one of the larger ones as it can then add to your expectations. However, the best plays against short stacks early on in the game are made when you can see the short stack player is getting desperate and you have a hand that you feel you don’t need to bet on in each round.
Look for the large stacks
Players with a large stack will invariably have no fears whatsoever of going broke, again we’ve all been there ourselves before now and know exactly where the large stack player is coming from. This invariably means the large stack players will play loose, call you or at least start betting high – even if they have quite an average hand. If you’re not playing with a large stack yourself an opening will occur for you to capitalize on when they open up the pot and start playing tighter. You now need to loosen up and, with them behind you in the betting, make an opening bet that’ll floor them.
Blinds and short stacks
What should you do if you’re the one with the short stack, it’s you on the blind in the next hand but as it stands you’ve only just enough chips to make the blind – never mind playing the current hand? You’re not quite in the ‘Catch-22′ situation you might think you’re in, whether to fold and wait for the next hand or play your current hand, as it all depends on whether or not your current hand is better than the average hands you’ve been getting. You need to think ahead to that next hand when it’s your turn to be the blind. Suppose you’ve got a better than average hand now, in the next round, when you’re the blind, what sort of hand would you expect to get? The answer to that has to be an average hand – so your decision must surely be to play the above average hand now – rather than folding and waiting to see what comes up when you’re in the blind? This procedure should be reinforced in you by knowing that with a short stack you’d almost certainly have to go all-in, or near enough all-in, when you are the blind. It really is one of those occasions when you need to balance the chances of playing a great bet on the pre-blind hand against a merely average or even good one when you are the blind; compared to the chances of having to make a really poor bet when you are the blind against making what might be only an average one before the blind hand. Playing tight with a short stack before being the blind is the natural thing to do here and you should only loosen up if you’re four or five hands away from being the blind with only a short stack in front of you.
Blinds and large stacks
Quite naturally the position everyone wants to be in when it’s their turn to be the blind is to have a large stack, if not the largest one. With a large stack it’s all about pressuring your opponents into making mistakes rather than necessarily looking to have the winning hand and, quite simply, the smaller their stacks – the more pressure you can exert, simply by not calling your short stack opponents raises every time. After all you are in the driving seat and should you choose to fold and lose the blind – so what, that’ll really get them confused. Threatening a short stack at the blind is relatively easy and the short stack doesn’t even need to be in peril of being able to call the big blind. If you’re to make the big blind then look for players with stacks less than twenty times its value. In just the first round of betting – by raising to a value of three times the big blind you will in one fell swoop threaten their entire stack. Here, for the short stack player calling just a fifth of their stack pre-flop will put them all-in at the flop, unless they opt to fold; even then if they fold they’re already seriously undermined, and under-chipped, for the next hand. In tournament poker play if the short stack is still in it – they’ll have to start doubling up to have any chance of keeping their seat. If, with a large stack, you see someone with a stack only ten times the big blind you can afford to keep going all-in, even with average and below average hands, or force the short stack to call – either way the short stack is surely soon to be leaving the tournament.